Homicide in America Term Paper

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Homicide in America

The imagination of death in a violent manner causes both fear and fascination in most people, and this is the reason why both homicide and suicide are the subjects of voluminous commentary. At the same time, most of this commentary is not facts, but a lot of emotions, and the backing is through a lot of items mentioned as facts. These facts have been repeated so often that now many people believe that they are facts.

There are a lot of reasons why homicides and suicides take place, and these reasons cannot be clearly understood.

The statements about homicides are often mentioned in different manners. These can be violence has reached 'epidemic proportions'; America is in the grip of an unprecedented wave of violence, or with the highest homicide rate in the world, or with the highest rate of homicide in the industrial world. These are also the reasons why they are ascribed to reasons like callous social policies of particular presidents, and when the leaders are felt to be 'macho' and also drop when the leaders are felt to be caring. The rates of homicides and suicides are said to rise when the returnees from war come back and bring back the violent methods of war with them. It is felt that homicides and suicides have no relationship to death penalties imposed by the courts. The gun control laws are also said to be affecting them -- with increases in their rates when guns are easily available and falling when there are strict laws for gun control. It is not realized that the rates for homicide and suicide rise and fall together, as can be seen in the graphs appended. (Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998)

In 1900 when the graphs start, the people were supposedly much worse off as the only welfare activities were from the religious and community groups. The population was highly concentrated in New York City and other ports through which they had to enter. These cities all had areas which were filled with recent immigrants. The immigrants could not mix with others as they were penniless, and had their own native ways and languages. The comparisons can be easily made when it is realized that in 1900, 13.6% of all Americans were foreign born whereas in 1990, only 7.9% were foreign born. (Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998)

Education was also very poor for them and they lived in overcrowded housing. They saw the wide disparity that existed between themselves and the rich. The persons were very conscious of their religion and race. There was no control over firearms and there were also no waiting periods. Anybody could get a gun of any type by just placing an order through the mail. Even after considering the factors of poverty, unavailability of welfare programs of the government, high immigration, and cities with people of differing ethnicity, bigotry, and ease in getting guns, the homicide rate during that period was only one-sixth of what it is today. There was also lack of medical care in comparison to the situation today, and many who had died then could have survived if the medical care of today was made available to them. The only assignable reason was that the areas were more rural then than they are today. A general observation is that rural areas have lower homicide rates than urban areas. It is sometimes said the United States has the highest rates of suicides among all nations, but they are 36th in a group of nations for which studies have been made. The rate of suicides per 100,000 is 11.9 for U.S. As compared to 41.2 for Russia, 32.9 for Hungary, 22.3 for Denmark, 21.4 for Switzerland, 20.8 for France and 16.7 for Japan. The general observation is that Northern and East European nations along with Asian nations tend to have high rates of suicides. The countries in other parts of the world have lower rates. (America: The Most Violent Nation?)

To a certain extent, the homicide rate in the early part of the century would have been even lower if the care facilities available today had been available then. The reason for this is that actual homicide rates are only arrived at after deducting the rate of survivals from the number of attempts that had been made for homicide. This also means that homicide rates should have decreased as facilities for medical care improved. This has not happened and that shows the tendency to violence has increased over time. At the same time, in the earlier years, the punishment for violations was often imposed quickly and the punishments were also severe. There was not much of time spent in the course of trials. Looking at case histories, in 1901, President McKinley was shot. The crime was committed with the aid of a handgun that was being advertised as being for sale for $3.27 in the catalog being brought out by Sears. The punishment was swift and the assassin was executed within 53 days after the crime was committed. (Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998)

Thus it is clear that though guns were available easily at that time, the punishment of criminals was also swift and this did not permit the crime rates to rise in those periods. The homicide rate in that period was only 1.2. This can be seen in the graphs. Coming closer to the modern age, suicide and homicide continued to drop during and after World War II, and the same trend can be seen to continue after the Korean War. The lowest rates of suicide can be seen in 1957 when the rate was 9.8. During this entire period, the homicide rates were also quite low. Then the trend changed and both homicide and suicide rates started increasing during the entire period of 1960s and 1970s. There were some variations from time to time. During this period, the Vietnam War came and went without any discernible effect on the rates of homicide or suicide. This makes it clear that homicide and suicide rates increased after World War I and Vietnam War, but fell after World War II and Korean War. This makes it clear that homicide rates are not significantly altered in terms of trend due to a war. At the end of it all, the rate for homicide reached its peak of 10.7 in 1980, and then again started dropping with President Reagan in his first four years. (Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998)

There were no new gun laws, but there were new anti-crime laws and attitudes of the governing body to homicide. The interest point here is that justifiable homicides are concentrated in the states of California, Michigan, Oklahoma and Louisiana. These states have 18% of the population but are the places where half the homicides are taking place. The biggest element in these killings was the killing of black men by other black men. Women do not seem at all involved in this crime, and the crimes are generally carried out with handguns. (California leads in justifiable killings)

The important point to note is that the biggest fall in homicides occurred just before the Clinton administration and during his period. The fall was by a figure of 35% of the rate of killings that existed earlier. According to Liberals this was due to the robust economy, low unemployment and a decrease in the use of crack/cocaine. Others talk about the death penalty, higher rates in punishment and the three strikes law. With the three strikes law being alone in place, there may not be a good logic for a decrease in crime rates, but when it is combined with a death penalty, and then it may cause a reduction in crime rate. (Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998)

During the period from 1991 to 1998 the portion of population made up of males between the ages of 15 and 24 fell by 5%, and they are the largest contributors to these crimes. Thus the change in population may be a cause of a drop in the crime rate by 5%, and the question remains as to why the rate still fell. The rates have fallen and most persons are happy about the fall, but this is not reflected in the news channels. They concentrate only on the bad news and we are exposed to corpses being carried off every night before going to bed. This makes us feel that violence is continuing and we become unhappy. According to a survey, while homicides have been decreasing, the coverage of homicides have been increasing as this sort of news helps the concerned channel to become more popular in the ratings. Earlier the homicides were taking place mostly in the inner cities and many residents of the suburbs did not feel themselves a part of the scene, but now the suburbs have also grown older, and the crimes have come there also. This makes them worried. The other…

Sources Used in Document:


Hallinam, Joe. California leads in justifiable killings. 30 July 1993. Retrieved from http://www.trosch.org/tro/mpr-7g30.htm Accessed on 14 July, 2005

Heide, K.M. Juvenile homicide in America: how can we stop the killing? Behavior Science Law.

Spring, 1997. Vol: 15; No: pp: 203-220. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve& db=PubMed& list_uids=9309858& dopt=Abstract Accessed on 14 July, 2005

Stolinsky, David C. Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998. Retrieved from http://www.haciendapub.com/stolinsky1.html Accessed on 14 July, 2005

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